Blog 033 Water

By Mana Williams. 15 Minutes

In today’s chat I wish to talk about a massive problem New Zealanders are facing in everyday lifestyle. That is we have one of the highest rates of child abuse per capita of any country in the world which is completely disgusting. Although this is a really heavy topic I wish to address a perspective change which I feel would build up a resilience towards recognising that all children are born with equal potential and that routine and culture change how some people judge a child to be. In the hopes that I might convince you that personalities are different from culture. That children would be loved in the way they need to be.

So here goes…

It’s way too common that some people believe that if you are of a certain culture you can be put into a box, to assume that individuality is dictated by your culture. But they are both completely independent. One certainly affects the other but neither relies on either. I really like to use the metaphor, “Personalities and Culture are like Water in a Glass.” Meaning a personality is manipulated and moulded into the culture or environment it is in by routines and belief systems, but at a fundamental level they are completely separable.

I used this metaphor when talking to the New Zealand minister of social development, Anne Tolley, when talking about the life of a child and their expected behaviours when growing up. It is like people assume kids are their parents and are only capable of operating under the same habitual mistakes as their parents because it is the environment they grew up in. I wanted to discuss that it’s really important for us to recognise that a personality is distinctively different from a culture or an environment. I was trying to urge the powers that be into recognising the massive perspective change that needs to occur in order for the brash judgements to be exposed for what they are.

What does it matter to you?

My story is really small. When I was eight months old I was taken into Child Youth and Family, which is the Child Welfare network of New Zealand, where I was taken in by a remarkable family who looked after and cherished me and at the age of 12 years I was able to become whangai, which is the maori equivalent to adoption. From there i grew up and was lucky enough to have every opportunity in the world to take me to places wherever I was brave enough to work hard to get to. However, m sister was not as lucky as I was to receive the same level of care that I got. Without going deep into that conversation, at the age of 15 only last year did she reach a place where she could call her home and say that she had family taking care of her. It isn’t a game, it isn’t a part time job, it’s how it is and I feel that it’s within my capabilities to say what I feel and make a difference by advocating for youth in New Zealand.

So what’s the effects that all this shit has on New Zealanders?

It’s never nice to think that people are their own worst enemies, but often it’s true. When Donald Trump banned seven muslim countries from entering the USA this year, it was in the hopes that they would decrease the number of American’s being killed in terrorism. But to define terrorism we can easily see that it refers to the word terror, or to be afraid of the extremism. But is killing a person in general not extreme? If we zoom in hard on deaths within America we can see that the majority of killings are actually American’s killing American’s. That all shootings are terrorism and that there are assumptions within the problem that a certain kind of people need to be excluded in order for the rest of society to feel good about themselves or to kick the problem under the sheets. Which is hardly different to the perception or expectation that all kids in the care of Child Youth and Family have less potential than any other child. That the child must be defined by the decisions and routines of their parents. That in some way an individuals personality is consumed by the cultures and routines of their daily life, when it’s not.

Who’s business is it to put any child into a box and deem them “vulnerable”? Some children deserve to be supported more to give them the strength they need to work hard enough to get where they want to go. But the support they need is on behalf of all new Zealanders whether they want to give it to them or not. The support they need is not the kind that stereotypes and assumes that each child in care or any child in general might have something sour about their parents therefore they should be treated differently. When in reality, personality and culture are independent. The potential of a child is like yellow paint across a white canvas. Inexperienced and unaffected by the murkiness implicated by reality and hardship. A single stroke to replicate the individual. It was yellow at the start and it’s yellow in the end. Everything that happened in between is how so many people judge a child. If you apply blue paint to the same white canvas assuming that the child is the same as their parents, they will believe it. Intercepting that same stroke of yellow with blue paint makes it green in the end. If you tell someone they’re a piece of shit every day eventually they will believe it. This isn’t dissimilar from how we treat kids in care.

How are we supposed to change the incapable attributes within a broken system?

Let them be. Give them space. Treat them like you. Support them to have the right opportunities. Don’t make assumptions. Don’t put them into a box. By recognising that a personality and a culture or a way of being brought up, particularly in the case of a child, is two different things. Having time to teach others that a persons personality is not completely influenced by how they were brought up. That could be anyone from a Minister of Social Development, to a flat mate who wants to know why some kids are in care.

There’s a thing called mana. It’s not me by the way. It’s a maori belief that every child is born with a certain amount of mana and across their life, it is taken away from them. I guess this can be adjusted to the truth that a child is born with the same potential as every other child and gradually over time people assume stupid shit and wreck their sense of identity, taking away their potential.

This is a really massive topic and can be really heavy. I don’t claim to know more than any other person, this chat has been setup to reflect my beliefs and my opinions only in the hopes that it changes the way at least how one person thinks. But this is today’s chat for you. Im going to bring out another little chat this evening too, so stay tuned!

Thank you for checking in.

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